Unprecedented numbers of cases of MPD have been diagnosed, mainly in North America, since 1957. Widespread publicity for the concept makes it uncertain whether any case can now arise without being promoted by suggestion or prior preparation. In order to determine if there is any evidence that MPD was ever a spontaneous phenomenon, a series of cases of MPD from the earlier literature has been examined, with particular attention given to alternative diagnoses which could account for the phenomena reported and to the way in which the first alternate personality emerged. The earlier cases involved amnesia, striking fluctuations in mood, and sometimes cerebral organic disorder. The secondary personalities frequently appeared with hypnosis. Several amnesic patients were trained with new identities. Others showed overt iatrogenesis. No report fully excluded the possibility of artificial production. This indicates that the concept has been elaborated from the study of consciousness and its relation to the idea of the self. The diagnosis of MPD represents a misdirection of effort which hinders the resolution of serious psychological problems in the lives of patients.